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Original scientific paper

Pragmatic function of speech disfluencies in high-functioning children with autism spectrum disorder

Ana Vidović Zorić orcid id ; Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb
Sara Blažeković

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Disfluencies in speech are usually viewed as manifestation of problems at the level of inner cognitive processes underlying speech production. However, it has been suggested that some types of disfluencies may also have a pragmatic function. The current study examines the distribution of disfluencies and speech rate in spontaneous speech of 10 high-functioning children with autism spectrum disorder (diagnosed as Asperger syndrome or high-functional autism) as compared to the typically developing controls. The task of participants was to retell the cartoon which they had previously watched. Their speech was audio recorded and transcribed. The duration of the analyzed speech segment was 60 seconds. Our results show that there is no significant difference in the total number of disfluencies between the two groups. Furthermore, participants of both groups produced the same types of disfluencies. Given that disfluencies reflect troubles in speech planning, these findings indicate that disfluencies are indeed a universal phenomenon in speech production. As regards different types of disfluencies, our study shows that participants with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) produced significantly more disfluent silent pauses and significantly fewer filled disfluencies than the controls. As has already been suggested in the literature, this could be due to the deficiency in the pragmatic ability of individuals with ASD. That is, individuals with ASD are less engaged in the maintenance of speech flow, which will result in more silent pauses.


speech disfluencies; Asperger syndrome; high-functioning autism; autism spectrum disorder; pragmatics

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